Ngige: Taking Elder Statesmanship a Notch Higher
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige recently said he will not campaign for any of the four leading presidential candidates. David-ChyddyEleke sees this as a new high in elder statesmanship.
Many supporters of the Dr Chris Ngige, especially in Anambra State call him Onwa. This means moon in Igbo language. It is his traditional title. However, there are others, maybe taking Into consideration his size who call him the diminutive general. Whatever he is called by different people, one thing that can not be taken away from Ngige is his assertiveness, courage and maybe stubbornness too.
Having been a former governor, senator and two time minister, Ngige is among Igbo personalities that have seen it all. He recently tried to run for the presidency of Nigeria, maybe as a way to put a crown to all the political positions he has held. He went as far as purchasing the presidential form of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He later withdrew from the race and continued his ministerial task in the ministry of Labour and Employment, where he has worked hard to enthrone stability in labour/federal government relations.
But in what can be said to be a way to assert himself as an elder statesman in Nigeria, Ngige, even without resigning from partisan politics has said he will not be supporting any of the four leading presidential candidates in the February, 2023 election.
Speaking at his hometown, Alor, Idemili South local government area, Anambra State, during the yuletide, Ngige declared that the four leading candidates for the presidential election are not just his friends, but contemporaries, with whom he has had dealings at various times.
In Alor, it has become a ritual for Ngige to call together family members, friends, supporters, and members of his party every yuletide to distribute cash, food items and many others.
The distribution is also extended to indigent members of the society, widows and aged persons. It was while performing this year’s task at the St Mary Catholic Church field in his hometown, Alor that Ngige spoke to his supporters about the 2023 Presidential election.
“The four frontrunners are good candidates with cognate experience in governance at the federal and state levels. They are my friends and they are well known to me. They have worked with me in one way or the other before now. Former Vice President, AlhajiAtikuAbubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was at the helm of affairs in the country when I was kidnapped as a sitting governor. He was Acting for Mr. President who was away in Maputo at that time. He ordered my reinstatement. We sat together in the National Economic Council where he was the Chairman. We formed the Action Congress (AC) with Asiwaju.
“Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC is also my good friend and political ally. He was very supportive during our trying times as Governor. We formed AC together. We worked together in ACN and I became the lone opposition Senator in the Eastern Region under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He is not somebody I don’t know.
“Peter Obi of the Labour Party is my brother, his Local Government is next to mine here, he is my successor and everything. I know him too well. I know his capacity. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of NNPP is my friend too. I knew him as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives under AgunwaAnaekwe in 1991 as Speaker. We were in APC. So, so I know him.
“For me, let the Nigerian people vote right. Let Nigerians look at them and their manifestos and vote, according to what is right for the country. I don’t think I will go around campaigning for candidates A or B or C. I won’t do that. It is not my stock in trade. I don’t jump from party to party. But besides, I have some conscience and I am going to protect my conscience and make sure that I don’t hurt it.”
Several comments had trailed Ngige’s decision, with many hailing his decision, while others have stated that it’s a veiled way of hiding his aversion for the candidacy of Tinubu as the candidate of APC, where Ngige belongs.
Some people have also analysed the decision as a way of veiling the support, which he has for the candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, over the candidate of his party, APC.
One thing that is certain is that Ngige has not denied that he has a candidate he will vote for, as a registered voter, but, has said that his conscience will not let him disclose who, or even try to convince others to join him in his choice, but to feel free to make their own choices, as they feel will be better for the country.
But also, in the outing, in what looked like staunch defence for his party, Ngige took time to tackle former President OlusegunObasanjo, who had previously made unsavoury remarks about the sufferings of Nigerians, under President MuhammaduBuhari’s administration.
He named some key projects completed by the President Buhari administration, including the second Niger Bridge, the Zik’s Mausoleum, saying those were evidences of Buhari’s performance.
According to him: “I was the one who brought Buhari to South East people in 2015. While we were laying our campaign manifesto, as the South East Zonal Coordinator, I told the General that the bridge is very important to our people and the entire South up to North Central. The General asked if we can do it and I said, ‘why not?’ The same question he asked at the Zik’s Mausoleum completion and he told me and the late ChumaAzikiwe that if God made him President, he will construct the Bridge and complete the abandoned Mausoleum for our people.
“I was the one who brought to the fore in our South East campaign, that 2nd Niger bridge, Enugu-Onitsha expressway and Enugu Airport renovation and remodelling, of which the Federal Government gave the Minister of Aviation N10billion to execute the upgrade, as critical infrastructural projects needed by the zone. Today, the tarmac was reconstructed and the runway expanded from one to three kilometres with a modern night lighting system and navigational aids
“I equally brought Enugu-Port Harcourt road, passing through Umuahia and Aba. Work is almost finished there. But the government before we came, made fake promises about these projects. So, President Buhari ought to be praised and showered with encomiums but, they will tell you that people are dying of hunger. Hunger is the world over. If you go to the news, you will see white people protesting against hunger and the high cost of living in Europe and elsewhere. There is a war between Russia and Ukraine, which has put the world in an economic dilemma and stress COVID-19 came before then and the world was shut down. There was no movement and no business activities. People were indoors. Those in the informal sector that make their daily living were at home and this government gave palliatives to them.
“The government wants to leave a good legacy of free fair credible elections, without interference by our administration. That is why the President told Ministers to face their job. I am facing my job. That is why you don’t see me with any candidate. I am not going to gallivant or run around with any candidate.”
Recently, former President OlusegunObasanjo in an open letter, endorsed Obi as the presidential candidate of his choice. His decision had caused an uproar. While supporters of Obi hailed Obasanjo for doing what was right for the country by not keeping quiet, presidential candidates of opposing political parties attacked Obasanjo, stating that his endorsement was worthless and can not transcend to votes for anyone.
In the case of Ngige, he has overly been hailed for deciding to be a statesman, and seeing every of the candidate as one, and praying for a level playing ground for all of them.